Rose had to flee her native Malaysia as her life as a transgender became unbearable. She is currently living at a refugee camp in Surahmmar. This is her story.
As a child I was always more interested in girly stuff. I loved purple and pink colours, watching Cinderella videos and sailor-moon series. I never enjoyed watching dragon ball or football. Instead I dreamed of becoming a gymnast.
The trouble started in primary school
At primary school the bullying started – students and teacher alike, they discriminated and punished me for my way of being. I was often sent to the school office, as I didn’t behave as the other boys in school.
I always knew that I was different
I’ve only been interested in a girl once (a classmate) but I always loved boys more, and always knew that it was this way. I wasn’t very feminine in my looks, I had curly hair and dark skin, but it changed when I started my oestrogen therapy, suddenly the ugly duck changed into a feminine little boy.
The bullying affected my studies
I was bullied every day in high school. It didn’t affect me in the beginning (guess I got used to it) but in the second and third year it got so bad that it started to affect my results. In my last year at high school I only passed my local language, English, science and arts subject. I escaped it all with my friend Alif/Mellissa who was also a transgender. We skipped class and rocked teenage life together, we had similar hobbies and we both loved to put on make up and dress up in women’s clothes.
I moved to the capital, Kuala Lumpur, to take my diploma in Healthcare, but I only made it to the second year due to financial problems. Instead I started working at Mc’Donalds, A&W, as a cabin crew and at a factory.
When working at Malaysian companies I had to work dressed as a man but some big western companies allowed transgender like me to dress like women.
In 2012 I moved to Dubai, where I studied DJ courses and worked part time at a bar. But Dubai is really tuff for LGBT people and you are always at risk to be deported if they discover that you are a transgender.
Every time I had to go to the Migration office, I had to dress like a man, walk like a man and behave like man – those where the rules for transgenders in Dubai.
The money I earned in Dubai made it possible for me to travel. I have been to almost all European countries. I got to know so many countries, and each country is different and amazing it is own way. Amsterdam is the city I visited the most; I have very good friends and some relatives there.
Then I got sick
I have a kidney disease and I’m currently going to three times a week to receive dialyzes treatment at Västerås hospital. I’m fine as long as I continue with my treatment and stick to a strict diet. In Malaysia only elderly patients and people working for the government receive treatment. The rest of us have to pay on our own. It is very expensive, especially if you lack insurance. Luckily I had support from a few of my closer friend and family in Netherland. Don’t know where I would be without them.
Life as a transgender was hard and I felt that I had to leave.That I was not going to survive if I had to keep on hiding. I made a google search about countries that would receive transgender people and who also have good medical care. Sweden was topping the list. I had been to Sweden three years ago for two nights in a city called Gothenburg.
Parting from my family was hard
I took my family for a short vacation to Langkawi Island to tell them that I was going to leave. It was hard to tell them but I felt I had no choice. I flew with Turkish Airlines and arrives at Arlanda in the middle of the night. I went to the Swedish Migration Agency and was from there forwarded to a refugee camp in Västerås. The journey to Västerås was complicated. I arrived in the night and had no idea where to go so I ended up sleeping in front of the Migration Agency in Västerås. In the morning the staff came and they sent my to the camp where I’m staying now.
What do you like the most about Sweden and the Swedes?
I like most things about Sweden. I have nothing to complain about. I’m grateful to be here in Sweden and so happy for the support that I have gotten from Marianne and Carita, a lovely LGBT couple here in Surahammer. They help me practice my Swedish and learn about Sweden and they have also introduced me into the Swedish habit of fika.
Swedes are the best at fika, I’ve come to understand that this is important quality time with your family and friends. Fika is also my favourite Swedish words – I love what it stands for.
Anything you find strange here in Sweden?
I noticed that most Swedes live together as “Sambos” instead of getting married. I found that a bit strange in the beginning but then my thai friend (who is married to a Swedish man) told me that couples in Sweden contribute equally with earning a living, cooking, cleaning etc.
The Swedish culture is very much about equality, not just for LGBT people, but for everyone, your partner, your family and your friends. I love that about Sweden.
What do you miss from Malaysia?
From back home, I miss my parents and my younger sister. They are everything to me. Apart from that I miss the food – Nasi Ayam (Roasted chicken rice), Nasi lemak (coconut rice ) Satay and Curry Noodles. Malaysian is a mix out of Malay, Chinese, Indian, Sarawak and Sabah kitchen and it is all together a wonderful mix of recipes. I can’t wait to have my own place so I can cook whatever I like to eat.
Anything you find confusing about Sweden?
The weather! I still try to figure this one out.
If you could give other Newbies advice, what would it be?
Try to get in touch with the society outside of the camp, by joining cycling activities or going to the library. Try not to complain to much about the food in the camp and respect the Attendo staff – they are doing their job as well as they can. I don’t like living the way I’m doing right now in the camp, but I don’t consider myself to have any other choice than to be grateful.
Some days I like the food at the restaurant, some days I don’t but I still eat it cause I consider myself lucky to have food to eat and somewhere to sleep. Swedes have done a great job in taking care of all the refugees who have come to Sweden.
Sweden is the best country in the world and I’m so happy to have friends from all over the world, like Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, South Africa, Columbia, and many other countries.
Life is full of surprises, I think back on my life as a traveller and find it remarkable that I’m now seeking asylum here in wonderful Sweden.
Yes, life as a refugee can be hard and difficult, but I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve made – I made them myself and I’ll carry these experiences with me for the rest of my life. Most people live lives without many ups and downs – but we refugees have been through tuff things, struggled in life but we are sure that Sweden is a good country that provide equality for all its residents.
Do you have any experiences with dating in Sweden?
I’ve meet a Swedish man during my time here in Sweden. He lives in Jönköping and has a 4 years old son. We lived together briefly, just three days, haha, but then I told him that I wanted to go back to the camp because I missed my friends there – Deng, Feras, Nawar, Ali, Justine, Mark, Morteza, Aiman. The food might not be the best at all times but I felt it was better to wait at the camp until I got my residence permit. He was very understanding.
I also have good Swedish friends in Surahammar, Carita and her wife Marriane, and Catharina and Mia. They are wonderful people who always find time to spend with us in the camp. They support my art and help me in many way so I’m thankful to have them.
We have been to Eskiltuna Pride, Vasteras Pride and Stockholm pride together and we have also gone fishing together.
To all transwomen back home in Malaysia
Explore the world out there, there are many thing we can learn. And remember:
“All gender is only gender, but love does conquer all”.